New York City Ballet: All-Justin Peck
History was made at New York City Ballet on Thursday (April 27) night as the venerable dance company presented its first–ever all–Peck program, an evening dedicated to ballet's golden boy, Justin Peck, a soloist with the company and its resident choreographer.
It was a momentous occasion for the toast of the town, who, still under 30, is seen as a ballet wunderkind and, perhaps, the superhero who is going to bring ballet back to popular culture. Peck has been choreographing for NYCB (and others) for just five years, yet he's already created 13 ballets for the company (with a 14th set to premiere in May), including one that was the subject of the documentary Ballet 422, his ode to his hometown, Paz de la Jolla.
Peter Martins had his pick of Peck's many creations, but for the first all–Peck program, he chose four works: In Creases, the first ballet Peck made for NYCB; The Dreamers, a pas de deux; New Blood, one of Peck's collaborations with fashion designer Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo; and Everywhere We Go, his second (and counting) collaboration with Sufjan Stevens (and my favorite Peck ballet).
I've seen and reviewed all of these before so for the first all–Peck program, I find I can only review them as a body of work. (My original reviews are linked at the bottom of this post.)
Beginning with In Creases, set to "Four Movements for Two Pianos, 1st and 3rd movements," by Philip Glass, Peck reminds us to never take our eyes off the ensemble. A single dancer could be doing something special, but watch the ensemble—they're always doing something special. As we move into The Dreamers, the pas de deux set to Bohuslav Martinu's "Piano Quintet No. 2, II Adagio," we see Peck prove George Balanchine right: There are no new steps, only new combinations. In The Dreamers, Sara Mearns's first steps appear to be the same as Taylor Stanley's big moment in In Creases. They're put together slightly differently, surrounded by different steps and emotion, and so something familiar becomes a new combination. (This piece has a palpably relaxed look and style, especially when compared to the precise movements in In Creases.)
Similarly, you can see common themes between New Blood, set to Steven Reich's "Variations for Vibes, Piano, and Strings," and Everywhere We Go. In each piece, you can see the dancers reviving one another, as everywhere we go there is new blood, new hope. Notice, in particular, that in New Blood the dancers' costumes have cut outs wherever they're touched—there are no barriers between people, there's always a chance to connect. Another trope in New Blood is that its successive duets see women dancing together and men dancing together. That's not unheard of but certainly atypical. Peck is changing that. (See his gorgeous Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes.)
It all culminates in Peck's masterpiece, Everywhere We Go. I was there for its world premiere, and it moves me like almost nothing else each time I see it. I love the beauty and gracefulness; I love the athleticism; I love the way the dancers relate to one another and revel in one another; I love its life–affirming message, bolstered by the names Peck has given each movement. (The first: The Shadows Will Fall Behind. The last: Thanks to the Human Heart by Which We Live.) It's also in this ballet that you see all the pieces of Peck's choreographic inklings come together—technique mixed with style mixed with a fervent desire to take the classical foundation and make it relevant and modern. And I am convinced that I absolutely need a recording of the score, which only underscores the relevancy of a modern choreographer, like Peck, connecting and collaborating with other artists. It keeps the beautiful art of ballet present and vital.
Featured Casting and Original Reviews:
In Creases: Sara Adams; Devin Alberda; Daniel Applebaum; Harrison Coll; Emilie Gerrity; Brittany Pollack; Taylor Stanley; and Indiana Woodward
The Dreamers: Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar
New Blood: Daniel Applebaum; Ashley Bouder; Rachel Hutsell; Russell Janzen; Lauren King; Claire Kretzschmar; Brittany Pollack; Tayler Stanley; Kristen Segin; Andrew Veyette; Sebastian Villarnin-Velez; Peter Walker; and Lydia Wellington
Everywhere We Go: Sterling Hyltin; Russell Janzen; Maria Kowroski: Tiler Peck; Amar Ramasar; Teresa Reichlen; and Andrew Veyette;